How to feed, house, and care for the hamster.
Hamsters should be purchased between the ages of four and seven weeks of age. When the hamster is purchased young they are easier to tame and handle. Young children should be supervised 100% of the time when handling the hamster. The hamster could become afraid and bite the child or the child could accidentally drop the hamster injuring it. Hamsters are more inclined to bite than rats.
Buy a hamster from a reputable pet store or hamster breeder. The best time of day to purchase a hamster is in the late afternoon or evening when the hamster is active and alert. The hamster's fur should be clean, no bare patches and shiny. The body should be healthy, smooth and well rounded. Check the hamster's ears. The ears should be clean. If the ears are dirty in appearance this could be a sign of infection or mite infestation.
The breeder or pet store will supply you with a cardboard carrying box. If you're traveling more than a short distance bring a plastic container with air holes and a secure lid. Hamsters can chew out of the cardboard box. Add a small amount of bedding to the bottom of the container. Sprinkle some food on the bottom of the container.
Male and female hamsters are both equally easy to tame. Some varieties of hamsters can be kept together in one cage if they have been littermates. The social species of hamsters are Dzungarian Dwarf hamsters, Short Dwarf hamsters and Russian hamsters. Other varieties of hamsters should be kept in separate cages since they will fight and injure or even kill each other, one example the teddy bear hamster.
Check with the pet store or breeder to find what variety of food the hamster is accustomed to. It's a good idea to continue feeding the same food and gradually changing to another variety if you choose to do so. Add a small amount of the new food to the existing food. Continue to add a bit more with each feeding until you are feeding only the new food. Always provide fresh water.
Make sure you have purchased the cage you want to use for your hamster before purchasing the hamster. It's always a good idea to have everything clean, and set up before bringing home the hamster. This creates far less stress on the hamster and you. The cage should be disinfected with a mild disinfectant. Rinse the cage completely and dry the cage. Many of the disease and afflictions that plague the hamster can be avoided with proper and frequent disinfecting and cleaning of his cage and materials.
There are many cages for the hamster available for purchase. The best cages are rigid wire tops with a plastic base (see link at bottom of page). This is my favorite because it is easy to clean and disinfect. I also like this type of cage because the bedding isn't as likely to get all over outside of the cage.
There are many other cages available in pet stores. Some cages have multiple levels and tunnels. These cages can be quite costly and difficult to clean. These cages can also be a tight fit for some of the larger varieties of hamsters such as the Syrian hamster.
Both glass and plastic aquariums can be used as housing. I don't like using aquariums because of the lack of ventilation and the susceptibility of the animal being over heated. Glass aquariums are heavy and cumbersome to clean. A plastic or acrylic aquarium is lighter and easier to clean. Make sure the aquarium is well ventilated and has a secure lid. The hamster needs fresh air. A well-ventilated lid is also necessary to keep condensation from building up inside the cage.
Comfortable and healthy bedding is a must for the hamster. They must build a comfortable nest out of safe materials. Don't ever use cotton or wool bedding because it can cause harm if the hamster ingests it or becomes entangled in the material. Many hamsters have died because of this "fluffy material." The hamsters that died at the result of this fluffy bedding material died of blockage and choking. Cedar chips and pine chips should also be avoided. Pine and cedar have strong oils and are odoriferous. Pine and cedar can cause respiratory problems in hamsters and all other small caged critters. A good wood shaving bedding material is aspen shavings. Paper based shavings are also available and are safe.
Good nesting material is torn up paper towels, cardboard, hay, (not straw) and toilet paper. The material should be torn into small strips. Hay works great as long as it is clean, not moldy or dusty. Straw can be too sharp and can injure the hamster.
A good water bottle is a must. Pick out a high quality water bottle because the cheaper ones are susceptible to leakage. An exercise wheel should also be provided. Most hamsters will use an exercise wheel but not all. The exercise wheel should be of the solid variety and not the rung variety. The rung variety can be dangerous because the hamster can get his little legs caught in the wheel rungs or slip and fall and get injured.
Many miscellaneous accessories can be made or purchased. Toilet paper rolls make great toys. A piece of apple wood can be hooked between the cage bars so the hamster can climb on it. Check out the pet stores for different accessories to provide extra stimulation and fun for your hamster.
There are many commercial hamster foods available. You can purchase either a mix or a pellet. The pellets meet the hamster's nutritional needs but they do not offer much variety. If you use the pellets be sure to supplement with other varieties of foods. The mixes usually have a variety of foods such as crushed oats, barley, rodent pellets, sunflower seeds, peanuts, maize and dog biscuits. They usually include other foods as well.
Supplement any of the commercial foods with fresh fruits and vegetables. Be sure to remove any uneaten fresh foods from the cage in a short while, so it doesn't grow old and moldy, and cause your hamster to become ill or worst. Fresh fruits and vegetables also make a good treat. Sugary treats are not good for a hamster. Fresh water should always be available. Purchase and feed a vitamin supplement.
Acorns, biscuits, boiled potatoes, bread, breakfast cereals, cooked fish or chicken, cheese, crickets, currents, dog biscuits, cooked eggs, mealworms, nuts, raisins, apple, banana, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chicory, clover, corn, cucumber, dandelion, dock, grapes, kale, lettuce (not iceberg), parsley, pear, raspberry plant leaves, spinach, sweet corn, turnip and watercress.
Never feed your hamster these foods.
Chocolate, garlic, buttercups, onions, rabbit mix (it contains antibiotics), raw kidney beans, sugar or toffee.
If you follow these guidelines you should have a happy healthy pet. Above all enjoy your pet hamster.
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Dwarf Hamsters (Complete Pet Owner's Manual)
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